Bread Pudding (Aysh al-Saraya)
December 2, 2009 • Category: Dessert
Translated into English, this dessert is called: Bread of the Sultan’s palace or seraglio. The sultan referred to is the Turkish one, from the Ottoman period and the seraglio is a reference to the harem’s quarters. I am told that this dish is Lebanese which makes sense considering Lebanon was under Ottoman rule for four hundred years. When you taste this dish, you will understand why the name is so fitting. The bread is doused and cooked in a caramel syrup until it is totally imbibed in syrup, the clotted cream or ashta sits majestically on top of the bread and one bite will make you wish you lived in the Sultan’s palace among the cadines (wives of the Sultan) or kalfas ( ladies in waiting)
Incidentally, I read a book called De la Part de la princesse morte, by Kenizé Mourad (tran. From the departed princess), that had a lasting impression on me. It is a true story written by the daughter of an Ottoman princess and recounts the last years of the Empire, the exile of the imperial family to Beirut and the marriage of the princess to an Indian Maharajah and her subsequent escape to Paris. A fascinating story that I read several times until this past summer when it really hit a personal note; I became friends with one of my dad’s nieces whose mother had been Turkish. This niece revealed to me that her grandmother had been the cousin of this Ottoman princess (whose book the story is about) and that she had in her possession a trunk full of letters, diaries and mementos from the Ottoman family!
This dessert is simple to make and although rich it has neither eggs nor butter; the components can be assembled at different times and the dish prepared a few minutes before serving. It is usually prepared and served for a party in a large platter but I wanted to tailor it to individual servings instead.
I consulted Anissa Helou’s book Lebanese Cuisine for the recipe, but adapted the quantities; and for good measure, I also consulted Nada Saleh Seductive Flavours of the Levant, who uses a slightly different technique.
- 1 round loaf white bread or 20 slices sandwich bread, crusts cut off (use the bread crumbs if you are making individual servings, it is easier to manage)
- 9 ounces sugar (1 1/4 cups)
- 4 ounces water
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
- 1 tablespoon of rose water
- 2 cups of ashta (recipe follows) OR ricotta cheese (whole-milk or light version)
- 1 cup or more of pistachios
Preparing the bread:
- If you are using a whole bread, you will cut off the crust on all sides and place the bread in a pan that fits its size. The thickness of the bread should be about one inch (2 1/2 cms) If you are using sandwich bread, use a food processor (or your hands) to obtain small pieces or medium-sized crumbs and place in the dish of your choice.
- Place the sugar, water and fresh lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and let it boil for about 15 minutes stirring, until the caramel takes on a pretty golden-brown color.
- Right before the caramel takes on that color, boil around one cup of water in a teakettle nearby. When the sugar is the color you want, place the saucepan in the sink, and while holding your face safely away from the pan, start adding very slowly the boiling water. Be very careful to avoid getting burned.
- If using a whole bread, place the bread in the pan and cook it in the caramel until the caramel is absorbed. If using breadcrumbs, place them over the caramel and let the breadcrumbs absorb the caramel and cool, cooking them if necessary over low-medium heat, or in the oven till absorbed.
Preparing the clotted cream:
Homemade clotted cream or ashta:
- 2 cups half-and-half or a mixture of milk and whipping cream
- 2 slices of sandwich bread
- 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water and 2 teaspoons rose water
- Cut off the crusts of the bread and cut in small dice or pieces.
- Place the half-and-half and the bread on medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
- After about 10 minutes, the bread will have dissolved into crumbs and started melding into the cream. Continue stirring until it is steaming. At this point, add the cornstarch and water mixture and stirring constantly let the mixture thicken for one or two minutes. Add the flavored waters and stir about 30 seconds more.
- Cool the ashta.
Fast and easy method using ricotta cheese :
- Add to the ricotta cheese the orange blossom water and the rose water, beating slightly with a fork. Use as you would the clotted cream. Use 2 cups of ricotta cheese.
FINAL ASSEMBLY OF THE DISH:
- Place the caramel-soaked bread (or crumbs) in the dish or ramequins that you selected, tapping gently to even out the top surface.
- Cover the bread with a generous layer of cream or ricotta cheese. Place in the fridge for thirty minutes or so.
- Cover the top creamy layer with finely chopped pistachios. Do not substitute any other nuts, if you want to stick to the traditional dessert.
31 Comments • Comments Feed
That b read pudding looks lovely!
On December 2, 2009 at 11:23 pm
Très beau dessert. les verrines sont trop tentantes.
On December 3, 2009 at 1:51 am
HistoryOf GreekFood says:
I am not surprised that this gorgeous bread pudding was served to Sultan’s saryi.
…And the story of princess Selma is a fascinating book!
On December 3, 2009 at 3:40 am
rêves de tables says:
Your recipes look just great and really tasty. Thank you for this beautiful and delighted time I spent through your blog.
On December 3, 2009 at 4:37 am
Une page entière de douceurs, il est difficile de choisir entre les parfums tous très subtils, la légèreté me séduit tout autant… par contre je n’arrive pas à obtenir la traduction ?
On December 3, 2009 at 8:59 am
I’m completely blown over by this dessert! Really impressive!
On December 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm
Rosewater AND orange flower water, simply divine! The photo of the glass verrines really does this beautiful dessert justice.
On December 3, 2009 at 8:24 pm
J’adore la présentation en verrine très alléchante…!
On December 4, 2009 at 5:48 am
This looks kind of a like a bread pudding. Except doused in caramel. Can’t go wrong there! You have absolutely made my morning with this recipe.
On December 4, 2009 at 7:29 am
Yum…this is looking so delicious..so much similar to what we make or is called as double ka meetha…a hyderabadi speciality from india
On December 4, 2009 at 11:34 am
comme c’est tentant..merci
On December 4, 2009 at 11:38 am
Oh! This bread pudding does justify the name…Sultan’s… looks delicious 🙂 and your presentation is great!
In regards to the cheese balls…I usually add parmesan cheese enough to make balls, otherwise the dough is very sticky. Honestly the amount of cheese will vary a little depending on the size of the eggs…hope you enjoy as much as we do 🙂
On December 4, 2009 at 11:59 am
Great presentation. This dessert looks so inviting… and temptive.
On December 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm
This looks delicious, and really different. I’ll bet it’s good 😉
On December 4, 2009 at 4:35 pm
J’aime beaucoup ce dessert (il faut que je le teste un jour) ! Et magnifique présentation dans les verrines, original !
On December 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm
superbe dessert!! j’ai quelque chose pour toi sur mon blog! bises! kouky
On December 5, 2009 at 5:01 am
Wow, this is something I have never seen before- It looks so delicious. Very beautiful presentation- I came here from Rebecca’s Chow and Chatter… and I’m so glad I did! Love your recipes, I’ll be visiting often. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes!
On December 5, 2009 at 7:46 am
Ah ah, la clotted cream ça fait partie de mes révélations londonniennes!
On December 5, 2009 at 11:20 am
nice description…….may be next time i’ll try your recipe for bread pudding….
On December 6, 2009 at 2:17 am
this recipe is so beautiful, i love the way you’ve assembled it. i found your blog via maninas- a lovely discovery.
On December 6, 2009 at 11:36 am
Ca a l’air delicieux !
On December 6, 2009 at 5:52 pm
Great posting my friend…
interesting story about the turkish princesse .
Thanks so much for helping me host a wonderful post…
love the individual servings I think its better than serving the whole dessert
THANKS so much….
On December 7, 2009 at 12:27 am
Still catching up on the Walima challenge – thank you for the step-by-step instructions, I am all set to try this now!
Your presentation is world class! I love your blog =)
On December 8, 2009 at 12:57 pm
I love the pisatachio toppings that appear so often in Turkish desserts.
On December 10, 2009 at 7:40 am
I made it! Posted on the Walima blog as well, I love your presentation. So mouthwatering!
On January 6, 2010 at 10:51 pm
i am so going to make this 🙂
On May 31, 2010 at 6:44 am
gula welat says:
Aha je connais on en fait aussi, pratiquement pareil
maintenant y’a peu de gens qui prennent le temps de le faire eux meme, ils les achetent tout pret. Dommage
Le tien est super
On February 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm
“one bite will make you wish you lived in the Sultan’s palace among the cadines (wives of the Sultan) or kalfas ( ladies in waiting)” How I laughed about this, because I would probably wishing that after eating this and other of your wonderful recipes. Great blog!
On May 3, 2014 at 5:23 pm
@ Maru: Thanks for your praise! 🙂
On May 4, 2014 at 12:43 am
Coco in the Kitchen says:
Joumana, this is the recipe I’m going to use for my post featuring you. Merry Christmas, Lovely.
On December 26, 2014 at 8:57 am